Bill on anonymous online defamation passes first stage in Dáil

Proposal would make social media firms more accountable for users’ posts

Legislation that would force social media companies to reveal the identity of anonymous trolls has been introduced to the Dáil by Sinn Féin.

The Social Media Platforms (Defamation Amendment) Bill would hold a social media company accountable for defamation if they failed to or refused to divulge the identity of an account holder who made defamatory statements on their platform.

The Bill, which was put forward by Sinn Féin's justice spokesperson Martin Kenny, passed through the first stage of the Dáil on Thursday and will be debated by TDs at second stage.

Mr Kenny said he hoped the Government would support the legislation and would bring it through the Oireachtas "as quickly as possible".


"I feel it is the right thing to do for ourselves here [in Leinster House] and for everyone else in society and many people across the country who have been victims of similar [ONLINE]attacks in the past," he said. "It is important that we get this piece of legislation through."

The Sligo-Leitrim TD said social media companies had to know who was behind abusive online accounts and must be able to identify them “clearly” and be able to disclose such information.

Mr Kenny said he had “some sympathy” for social media platforms “when they say that they’re not publishers” as they didn’t have the same editorial oversight as newspapers and that posts go up online “instantly”.

Sinn Féin has previously been criticised for the anonymous online abuse posted by some of their supporters.

Sinn Féin TD Imelda Munster said social media was operating "like the Wild West at the moment", leaving people open to abuse, defamation and "other harmful consequences with nobody held liable for the damage caused".

“Our hope is that this Bill may encourage social media platforms to take steps to change how they do business regarding defamation in an effort to avoid being sued,” she said.

“If they don’t, then they will have to face the consequences. The burden shifts from the anonymous poster to the social media company and they will become liable.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times